“Ouchi” “Alla”


“I am not a number”  
Has anyone here seen “The Prisoner” from the 1960s?
It looks like it was stunningly high quality in its set designs etc
Railing against dehumanisation
Like “1984”, Like “The Truman Show” and of course, like “The Matrix”!
Reducing people to numbers, statistics and objects.
“I am not a number”

But it could also be the cry of the people living in Darfur, or Marysville
or Concepcion, or who were in Duffy in Jan 2003 or the Twin Towers in 2001
And it could have been the cry of the Galileans referred to in Luke 13
or those killed by the Tower of Siloam.

I am not a number, I am not an object.
Turning people who are suffering, into numbers is an ungodly act
And just as Jesus points out in this week’s passage blaming people for the suffering is also an ungodly act:
         it misunderstands not only the character of God
         but the relationship between God and the creation

We know – in fact we are all too aware –
that making a link between suffering and some form of sin is common.
We have heard it about the bush fires and Hurricanes
we have heard it about earthquakes and diseases.
And Jesus heard it about massacres and falling towers – and blind people

We shouldn’t hide from the fact that there are some quick and easy answers
that are recorded as part of the canon of scripture.

Deuteronomy, some of the Psalms, some of the Proverbs, and some of Paul
can all be read as supporting the idea that if you do good then good happens
and if bad happens, then it is because of evil in life.

But it is not a good enough response.  Whether it is in scripture or not.
That’s partially why Job and Ruth were written. That’s why we get Lamentations
And that’s why whenever Jesus was asked the question he was very clear:
“Do you think that this suffering was because of sin or evil in their life?
Ouchi’  Jesus says.
By no means.  Not at all.  Are you kidding me?

So, why is the idea still around?
Because blaming the victim tends to make us safe.
It makes us safe by denying a sense of the random in the universe
It makes us safe by keeping an all powerful God who is not arbitrary.
In fact we can be so keen to defend this secure understanding of God and life
that we are prepared to blame ourselves, even when it doesn’t make sense.
So, is this the way to hold on to God and make sense of life

         ‘Ouchi’  By no means.  Not at all.  Are you kidding me?

God is not a vending machine where if you put in enough good
and then push the faith “on” button then good comes out.

         ‘Ouchi’  By no means.  Not at all.  Are you kidding me?

But what of the next sentence:  Unless you repent, you too will die?
Generally, our problem is that we read the “repent or die” sentence
without really taking on board what Jesus has already said

         ‘Ouchi’  By no means.  Not at all.  Are you kidding me?

“Change your whole way of trying to make sense of suffering and hurt”
If we read Jesus’ second sentence as meaning
“If you don’t fix YOUR ways, then God will blot you GOOD”
then we haven’t actually changed anything at all except moved the focus to us

Too often, far too often, we think of the idea of repentence
as being about going through life with a set of tweezers
finding all the morally negative and “sinful” things and pulling them out
Why?  Because if we don’t we’re off to punishment.

         ‘Ouchi’  By no means.  Not at all.  Are you kidding me?

Already in Luke’s gospel it is really clear that Jesus believes
that God is about life.  Life in healing, in liberty, in non-oppression, in justice.

Repentence for Jesus in Luke is about turning TO the nature of God
because in turning to this nature, we experience what God is all about.
That’s why when Jesus starts his second sentence he uses “Alla”
“To the contrary…”  “On the other hand altogether…”
He is not linking the two ideas, he is disconnecting them.

Suffering is not about finding someone to blame
either to make us feel more superior to them, or to save our image of God.
In fact, change your way of thinking altogether to the opposite

Turn in your life to the life-giving nature of God
a nature which is revealed in healing and wholeness
a nature which is demonstrated in compassion for the suffering
a nature which is manifest in liberation and justice
turn to that nature, or else, you will actually be stuck in death.
A living death even now.

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